millennials making millions

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It’s a different world than the one that I grew up in.

This will being as one of those “back in my day” stories about how the times are changing before the older generation can adapt to the new one. (Subsequently, the older I get, the more I realize that every generation becomes the ‘older’ generation relatively swiftly).

I grew up in the 1980s and 90s. I recorded television shows on a video cassette tape and watched them on the VCR. I put music cassettes into tape recorders. I used rewind and fast forward on both. I played the original Nintendo video game and marveled at the advances in technology, because before that playing computer games required entering code on the T.I. Basic or playing a pixel-laden Atari.

Then in high school, technology advanced. I got my first Email address and could browse the Internet through AOL dial-up, where you paid per minute that you were online and being on your computer meant your phone-line was busy. I could jump into chat rooms and talk to people anywhere in the world and it was incredible! Communication and media were forever replaced with Email instead of snail mail. Now news and television shows and movies could be viewed online, pornography could be downloaded instead of purchased in a store, and shopping could be arranged through websites and products sent through the mail. Everything was different. And companies launched along with it that soon became media enterprises: Yahoo, Google, GMail, America Online, and many more.

Then in 2001, as a young college student, I bought my first cell phone. It was only $200 per month, and I could make calls in a local area, up to 200 minutes per month! There was no data, no camera, no internet, no long distance, and no texting (those would all come in the next few years), but I could carry a phone in my pocket and use it whenever I wanted! And the cell phone companies expanded to epic proportions. Verizon and Cricket and Sprint and

Obviously, technology has skyrocketed since then, the inventions of the last few decades dominating nearly every market. And now, as the Millennial generation grows with it, everything has changed. Social media has now become the primary form of media, television looking more to us now like radio did to me as a kid. And the company giants that dominate the international landscapes are all associated with the internet: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, YouTube, ITunes, Paypal, Tinder, Amazon, Craigslist, MySpace, Ebay, WhatsApp, Airbnb, Uber, and on and on.

A few years ago, an app craze spread across the country, and downloadable games and programs made millions for quick-thinking, technologically-savvy entrepreneurs. Angry Birds and MyFitnessPal and apps of every genre and type came out by the hundreds of thousands. Apps to help you turn poetry into music, to allow you to save your photos with new filters, to turn your car into a taxi cab, to find live music near you, to count your burned Calories as you walk, to find local singles for sex.

And suddenly, there are millions of home-based businesses out there, people making thousands of dollars per month by uploading _____ (fill in the blank) and running advertising on their content, which generates a small amount of income per click. There are people sharing recipes and parenting tips on blogs, there are jokes or photos or tips of the day on websites, there are news commentaries with millions of followers.

On YouTube itself, there are thousands of individual channels that make their owners tens of thousands of dollars (and in some cases millions of dollars) per years. A woman who does make-up tutorials, a man who records himself playing video games, a man who plays pranks, a man who dances in his underwear to pop songs, a doctor with medical advice, a massage therapist who gives self-massage tips, a girl who runs lyrics to songs through translation technology and then sings the songs in broken English, a scientist who melts things, an adult woman who plays with kids’ toys, a man who records people from other countries eating American foods for the first time. With just the right amount of sound and video quality, an energetic personality, and some basic editing skills, there are thousands of Millennials running successful companies out of their living rooms.

And this, in many ways, is the new America. Which leads me to wonder, what kinds of ideas have yet to be discovered? And where is technology going from here–what is it about today’s advanced social media culture that is going to seem archaic in ten years time? What companies will still be launching, what new forms will advertising and television take, what millions have yet to be made?

And what mark will I end up leaving along the way?

the Marie Osmond empire

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It is easy to understand America’s love affair with Maria Osmond. It’s her charm, her forthrightness, her vulnerability, her vocal versatility. It’s her ability to stay true to her roots and push herself forward into new realms. It’s her jokes, her gorgeous dresses, her authentic laugh, and her sheer enthusiasm and passion for what she does on the stage every night.

And let’s face it, she looks incredible. She credits particular nutrition products, but I credit her for her hard work, dedication to exercise, and incredible attention to detail. She was performing aerobic routines on that stage with much younger dancers, and keeping up with them, all while singing. She’s 56 and looks 40, and that is no small feat.

I sat near the stage in the Flamingo in Las Vegas, watching Donny and Marie strut and sweat across the stage, singing their hearts out. I enjoyed the performances much more than I thought I would.

Although I grew up in the 80s and 90s, I didn’t become an Osmond super-fan like my older sisters did. I wasn’t around to watch the young Osmond children singing and performing on television, hosting their own television shows and specials, starring in Broadway performances and musicals, touring around the world, writing books and magazines, and releasing album after album. I didn’t join the media craze as the Osmonds, particularly the most famous siblings (the youngest, Donny and Marie) married and divorced and had children. In more recent news, I peripherally followed their performances and victories on Dancing With the Stars, but never watched.

And now, as I sit back and watch them banter and cajole with each other on stage, taking turns singing classic songs off their old albums, new songs off their new albums, and some surprising hit selections (like “Walk This Way” and “These Boots are Made for Walkin'”), I get it. Donny and Marie have my respect. They are talented, and funny, and charismatic. And I recognize how difficult it is to keep a career alive for five decades.

Donny on stage is a bit juvenile and playful. In between songs, he goes through purses in the audience and takes credit cards and cell phones as a joke, returning them later. He promises CDs to everyone in the audience, then says just kidding. He pokes fun. He’s a bit ouf of shape, but he has some serious pipes and he sounds incredible singing. He’s a solid talent and it is easy to see the star power he has still.

But Marie… Marie is an empress. She’s a name brand. She’s a powerhouse performer who commands the stage with her dances and singing, everything from country to rock and roll and a shockingly beautiful foreign opera piece. A quick internet search of her name shows her connections to advertising campaigns, her own non-profit work for sick children, her dolls and crafting businesses, and her line of books. With three biological children and five adopted, she has been open with the public about struggles with depression and her struggles as a mother, particularly when one son committed suicide. And when Marie’s daughter came out as lesbian, Marie came out in support of her.

Donny and Marie closed the show with a long string of jokes, each ribbing the other. Marie pointed out that the only other famous brother-sister duo who built a career together were the Carpenters. They sang a medley of songs, hits they have done together over the years. And as Donny went through purses and wallets again, Marie rushed around the room drawing lips on the bald heads of male fans throughout the room, in in sequined high heels.

As I walked away from the theater with a smile on my face, I realized that Marie Osmond is a force to be reckoned with, an enduring and powerful performer and business woman who has firmly carved her name into the history of modern entertainment.

And she’s not even close to done yet.

Marie

love/hate Las Vegas

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A friend asked me this morning what it is that I like about Las Vegas. I gave it some thought and realized quickly that I don’t actually like Las Vegas all that much.

Las Vegas is dirty, it’s grimy, it’s hot. Everyone is in a hurry to have their needs fulfilled. Here is some cash, now feed me, entertain me, dance for me, liquor me up. I want it all and I want it now. Las Vegas is cash and booze and sweat and flashing neon lights and sex and sultry street corners.

Las Vegas is a middle-aged woman, weather beaten and exhausted, standing in an assigned section of casino, wearing a pink fluffy feathered headdress and a corset and a sequined tight dress that exposes her shoulders and legs and cleavage, with bright pink lipstick, holding a tray of drinks as she pretends to smile at each tourist rushing by her but she really just wants her next cigarette break and to get back to the couch that she sleeps on in her small apartment but she still has six hours of work ahead.

Las Vegas is the six college guys who flew from the east coast for a weekend away, all sharing one hotel room, and all with different goals for the weekend: pool lounging, sheer drunkenness, getting smashed at a strip club, picking one slot machine and not leaving it until the bank account is empty or the jackpot is won, finding one girl on vacation and spending the entire time with her, and betting big at a poker table. And they will all find it, with ample amounts of food, before they trudge back to their plans on Monday morning, exhausted for the long flight home.

Las Vegas is the sixty year old couple from Tallahassee who think $3.50 is too much for a shrimp cocktail, and where is the best buffet, and can they fit in five shows in three days and still get in time to shop at that mall over there.

Las Vegas is the mother of four, setting her kids loose on the casino amusement park while she slumps in the corner with a margarita that is taller than her toddler.

Las Vegas is me, in a 26th floor hotel room at Circus, Circus, standing in the window at 5 am and looking out at a city that comes at me in layers. Brown rolling mountains on the desert horizon, a sun rising slowing in pink and orange. Massive shiny hotels looming in patchwork sections of the landscape, massive juggernaut structures full of thousands of people, all pursuing their vices. Long roadways with hundreds of cars zooming in every direction, every one of them impatient. Sporadic green trees withering in the already 90 degree heat. Helicopters hovering in the sky. Small homes and local businesses, all brown and red and tan, where the tired masses head from work to home or home to work, all exhausted. And the connecting pieces between them, every inch neon and concrete, electricity and stone. It’s heavy and hot and fast and exhausted and shiny.

Las Vegas is… vice. It’s sin. It’s all of the baseness of humanity stripped down to its core. People come here for the heat and the sin and the neon and the concrete. And while those are the very things that repel me, I suppose that is the very thing that I love about Vegas. The baseless humanity of it all. The opportunity to go away, sin and get dirty, and then get back to regular life.

It’s gross/beautiful. It’s filthy/pure. It’s love/hate.